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‘Drumbeat to War’ opens Saturday

March 2, 2011

Jefferson County History Center Director Ken Burkett is prepared to unveil a new exhibit, “Drumbeat to War,” commemorating of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The exhibit, which opens Saturday, is the first in a planned five year series commemorating Jefferson County’s involvement in the war. (Photo by Matthew Steffy)

BROOKVILLE — Jefferson County History Center Director Ken Burkett is duly excited, as Saturday, the first exhibit of “Drumbeat to War” begins in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

A new exhibit will open every six months for the next five years. The exhibit opening Saturday focuses on the early recruitment of soldiers from the Jefferson County area.

The first exhibit will be on display for one year, and the second exhibit will open in a separate room this September.

Burkett said the plan is to have the exhibits and information follow the timeline of what was happening 150 years ago.

For example, the first exhibit deals with recruitment, training and war declaration.

Later exhibits will deal with early battles, and by 2013, Gettysburg and the war’s turning point will be emphasized.

The final exhibits, which will be on display in 2015, deal with soldier’s return home and life after the war.

“This first exhibit deals with the announcement of firing on Fort Sumpter, and the call-up of Jefferson County militia companies,” Burkett said. “It follows those men through the first 90 days of service. They were known as the three-month men, and then back to Brookville and through re-enlistment.”

Burkett explained that the soldiers from the area were initially signed to 90-day commitments, but most of them re-enlisted after that commitment was reached.

“We have some artifacts from soldiers, and the initial register from when the company was formed,” he said. “The company was actually active in 1844, and continued through the war. A lot of the artifacts we have are dealing with camp life. None of the men saw combat, but they did go and start training to help them in the later fights.”

Some the artifacts have been donated from private collections, other came from the center’s archives, and still others are wearing reproduction clothing used by Civil War re-enactors.

A portrait in the exhibit is that of Amor McKnight who, according to records, anticipated the war as early as 1850, and was therefore actively recruiting soldiers prior to the war.

McKnight rose to the rank of colonel and became the commander of the Pennsylvania 105th infantry regiment, also known as the Wildcat Regiment.

The regiment featured more than 1,000 soldiers from Jefferson, Clarion and Clearfield counties. It was highly decorated and was present at the famous battles of Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and the siege of Petersburg.

Details of involvement in those battles will wait until later, because the first exhibits will deal with the prelude to those events.

“We’re very excited,” Burkett said. “And we’re still looking for items, both military and from the home front.”

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